Rob Boston is the Editor of Church & State (Americans United for Separation of Church and State). Here we talk about secular and freethought communities, the American story.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What defined communities of secularism and the values of freethought in earlier periods of the American story? What define the communities of secularism and the values of freethought now?
How is this reflected in the newer writers and speakers – and their content – in the secular and freethought communities now?
Rob Boston: If you read the history of freethought in America, you’re struck by how the early battles were basically about the struggle for these ideas to even exist. Both the government and the larger culture were hostile to the idea that God might be mythical. Some freethinkers were arrested for blasphemy, and freethought materials were sometimes banned. Anyone who wants to learn more about this period should read Susan Jacoby’s book Freethinkers.
Modern-day secularism is like any other philosophy or idea in that it contains a range of people who bring different ideas and aspirations to the table. Some secularists want to focus on increasing the acceptance of non-theists in American society. Others want to work on separation of church and state. Still others argue for a broad social justice approach.
I remember the days when organized freethought groups were dominated by older white men. I’m thankful for the work theses leaders did in launching the movement. However, demographically, America is undergoing a lot of changes.
For secularism/freethought to be viable in the years to come, it will have to broaden its approach and welcome younger people, women, communities of color and members of the LGBTQ community. For freethought to appeal to the members of these communities, we need to make it clear that we share their concerns.
I see this happening, but it has been a slow process, and there has been a backlash to it. The rise of the internet has amplified some atheist voices that are misogynistic and racist. One of the reasons I hew to humanism is that the values of humanism rebuke misogyny and racism. I believe that an embrace of a truly inclusive humanistic ethic is not only the moral choice, it is our best hope for the future.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Rob.
Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.
Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du Québec, Atheist Freethinkers, Central Ontario Humanist Association, Comox Valley Humanists, Grey Bruce Humanists, Halton-Peel Humanist Community, Hamilton Humanists, Humanist Association of London, Humanist Association of Ottawa, Humanist Association of Toronto, Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba, Ontario Humanist Society, Secular Connextions Seculaire, Secular Humanists in Calgary, Society of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph), Thunder Bay Humanists, Toronto Oasis, Victoria Secular Humanist Association.
Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an Agnostiker, American Atheists,American Humanist Association, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e Agnósticos/Brazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Alliance of America, Atheist Centre, Atheist Foundation of Australia, The Brights Movement, Center for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist Ireland, Camp Quest, Inc., Council for Secular Humanism, De Vrije Gedachte, European Humanist Federation, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Foundation Beyond Belief, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist International, Humanist Association of Germany, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist Society of Scotland, Humanists UK, Humanisterna/Humanists Sweden, Internet Infidels, International League of Non-Religious and Atheists, James Randi Educational Foundation, League of Militant Atheists, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, National Secular Society, Rationalist International, Recovering From Religion, Religion News Service, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, The Clergy Project, The Rational Response Squad, The Satanic Temple, The Sunday Assembly, United Coalition of Reason, Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.